Susan Howe Elizabeth

October 19, 2015 Howe Elizabeth Susan



Falls and stays flemished,
lifts and braces squared,
we came in on the neap
under a single scrap of sail.
How long had we been out
and where, the wharfinger
did not ask.  He could see
the answer far out behind us,
anyway, following on a shadow
or a piece of ancient spar
looking for home.

Contentment walked away
up hill from the sea and left us
bumping gently at the darkening
pier.  If we announced ourselves,
who left us or appeared?
If we slept, what women touched
or woke
our beaten contemplations?
Beautiful beautiful return, sky-sized,
angelic and looking the other way,
kept its own council.  Fair wind
was beside the point.

Still, as night came on, we laid
our offering of shells and string
on the grey planks, and prayed
that death relent and bless us,
who had come so far.
And the stars, as always, lit
their little fires in that dark
above the crisp sweet air.





You believe your brother will come down
after the rains
and rock with you through the twilight suicides
of moths against the bulb
hanging from the porch ceiling like an answer
or a bald old man on fire with love.

He will be tired, your brother.  Wearing tired moons
on his fingernails, he will tell you the train that brought him
ran on shadows, the fireman feeding them into a vat
of black flame as the stars emerged and an owl
flew among them, looking for whatever secret thing
might hide and breathe and never make it home.

He will say it is better to forget
than forgive and show you a photograph of a blind man
waving to an empty field.  How long has he been
standing by that hill where the road stops?
Surely in town the bars have closed their faces
and your brother’s face turns toward you, more beautiful

than young, like something tarnished
but glimmering.  If it’s a stranger’s face, you’re home
and your brother is all around you under the lamp.

Susan Elizabeth Howe is a contributing editor of Tar River Poetry and served for eleven years as the poetry editor of Dialogue. Her own poems have appeared in such journals as The New Yorker, Poetry, The Southern Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her first collection of poetry, Stone Spirits, was published in 1997 and won the Charles Redd Center Publication Prize. It also received the Association for Mormon Letters award in poetry for 1998. She has just completed a second collection of poems with Florida poet Terri Witek, To Lie with a Landscape (forthcoming). Susan lives with her husband Cless Young and their three aging dogs in Ephraim, far enough away from the Wasatch Front to be a peaceful haven she can escape to when she’s not teaching. [from Discoveries: Two Centuries of Poems by Mormon Women, 107-8] Included in 75 Significant Mormon Poets